My Africa trip began with several months of looking at itineraries and deciding what I really wanted in my first trip to Africa. I decided my love for animals is all I wanted. The animals are what I wanted to be surrounded by. Kenya seemed enticing with so many locations to venture to for animal encounters.
We flew into Nairobi after 4 days in London. Flight got in late, so we overnighted in Nairobi and began the next morning with a hearty breakfast, a meeting about our itinerary with do’s and don’ts about our travel and meeting our driver/guide, Bryant. Very basic instructions, but be prepared for some very long drives in bumpy unpaved roads. It was rainy, but people were out and about along the paved roads walking and selling goods while we sat in some traffic in the city. I was happy that I chose to get out of the city center. After 6 hours of driving and seeing our first animals(Giraffes, Zebras, crocodiles, Ostrich and more, we arrived at our first lodge Samburu Game Lodge for 2 nights in Samburu National Reserve. Great lodging along the river where Elephants and more crocodiles were seen. Check in and escorted to our bungalows and then lunch to follow. We all loved the monkeys that were every where. We were told to lock our bungalows at all times since the monkeys know how to open the doors and steal your stuff. This was proof since they were stealing the cups from the open bar, often breaking them. After lunch we freshened up and then took an afternoon safari. Again many encounters with several types of antelopes, dikdiks, elephants, giraffes, and a leopard(exciting). Every morning and afternoon had game drives.We encountered a pride of female lions with their cubs dining on a warthog. A cheetah cut open and dead. 3 cheetahs alive and next to our jeep. I was hoping they would jump on top of the jeep, but they walked past us instead. Our guide had opened up the top for all of us to see and get pictures before starting each drive. No getting out of the jeep, but close enough to look them in the eyes and watch them watching us. We all decided to book massages prior to dinner. Interesting since it was outdoors and the monkeys had to be shooed away before the massage. Meals generally consisted of beef, fish and stews with indian influences. All very good. The services of all staff were beyond excellent. Always willing to help, escorted all over the property and wanting to share their culture.
After 2 Days , we were off to the Aberdare National Park. This was another day of driving over the foothills of Mount Kenya and into the forests of the Aberdare Mountain Range. Along the way, we noticed all the goats and cows that were being herded along the dry land. People were selling their goods along the highway and many children were freely walking/running/playing. We did make stops at restrooms that were appropriate for americans and a break for our guide/driver. He often stopped at places to bargain for souvenirs after using the restrooms. We arrived at The Tree Tops Lodge(yes, a tree goes through the lodge), where Queen Elizabeth came to stay as a princess and left a queen due to her father passing while she was in Kenya. I was lucky to stay in the Queen Elizabeth Suite. We immediately took a little walk around the property and made aware of the drinking hole in front of the lodge where animals come to drink. All rooms faced the water hole. Baboons and their babies were everywhere outside the gates of the Tree Top Lodge. At night, the hotel will ring your room if there are Elephants, lions or others at the water hole. We saw hyenas, water buffalos and an elephant during the evening. There are several photographer hideouts to get closer pictures of the animals. Best tomato soup EVER. Cancelled my dinner choice and had a second bowl of soup.
The next morning, we headed across the Great Rift Valley to Lake Nakuru, which is often colored a shimmering flamingo pink from thousands of the beautiful birds lining its shores. We made a stop at the Equator where a gentleman showed us how the Northern and Southern Hemispheres worked by placing a bucket of water on one side of the equator(line) and put a stick in the water. It circled to the right. He then put the water bucket on the other side and the stick circled to the left. Needless to say, I bought the certificate that says I was at the Equator. Upon arrival, getting close to the flamingos was tough. Due to the water levels, we could not get close enough. However, we did discover two endangered black rhinos and a white rhino. Mongooses, warthogs,many birds and more zebras are being seen as well. We arrived at Lake Nakaru Lodge. We checked in and were able to relax from the long drive before our next afternoon game drive was scheduled.
Another day of driving to the Masai Mara. After a lovely breakfast in a giraffe themed dining area, we set off. Always a country filled with people tending to their animals. We even saw a camel roaming the streets. After getting off the paved highway the dirt road was extremely bumpy to get into the Masai Mara territory. At times, I would almost hit my head on the roof due to hitting holes and speeding. Always along the way on the long drives, we had animal encounters and Bryant often stopped for us to see and take pictures. He never rushed us when we would stop and watch the animals. His thorough explanation of every animal always had us asking questions. He also was always on the look out for signs that animals were around and pointed those out to us so we could be ready. We stopped at a hotel for lunch and did some money exchange in preparation for our Masai Mara Village visit the next day. Another stop was at a waterfall where baboons lined the rocks above the waterfall. We were able to get out after Bryant surveyed the area. We also stopped because Bryant wanted to show us the line that divides kenya from Tanzania. Again we got out and got pictures of us in Tanzania(does that count as a visit) and Kenya. We finally arrived at Kichwa Tembo Camp. These were canvased accommodations. This was by far our favorite accommodations. Warthog with her 2 babies roamed the property. Our patio had views of the savannah and in this case we were fenced in to keep whatever roared at night out. We had another afternoon safari where we saw many hippos and another leopard lounging in a tree. So awesome. After dinner, there was a show with the Masai Mara people. We think Sheila got married. Our first night time safari was planned. I don’t think I have ever felt as uncomfortable as much as I did sitting in the middle of the savannah, in the complete dark with 3 men(1 with a gun) and wild animals all around us. At 1 point, I asked them to shine the light to the right of me and there were 5 female lions lying 20 feet from the open jeep and me. We sat and watched until all 5 walked away. The night time was very lively with hippos, hyenas on a hunt, buffalos, female lions and a small nocturnal cat of some kind. Early next morning, hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara. Super exciting to have my first hot air balloon ride and what could better than in Africa. The ride was amazing and the animals were out. 2 jackals played chase around a little hill, a dead hippo in a river surrounded by crocodiles,Many impalas, elands, kudus and elephants to see from above. Morning sunrise was beautiful as it rose to greet the savannah. After we landed in the middle of the savannah, a big breakfast was waiting and we cheered our captain for a job well done. We drove back to the lodge and prepared for our Masai Mara Village Visit. We arrived in the afternoon with gifts for the villagers. Upon a greeting from the son of the chief, we gave our gifts and he proceeded to tell us and show us the very small village. The women build the houses while the men are out tending to the herds. The women also make crafts which we all bought. After the tour and purchases, we noticed all the children were eating the lollipops we brought. This is when we were able to engage with the children, which is what we all wanted to do by giving gifts. It was bummer for all of us that we were not able to give the gifts out ourselves. Our last afternoon safari and what did we finally see, Papa Lion all by himself. Bryant spotted him lying in the brush and rushed on over before any other jeep would notice. We must have spent 30-45 minutes taking pictures and admiring him before Bryant contacted the other jeeps to come take a look. Something else Bryant noticed was 3 leopards about to mate. 1 male and 2 females. We were taking photos of the male going between the 2 females. He mated with only 1 behind a bush and 10 seconds later, he moved on. Even Bryant was taking pictures and in awe of what he was seeing. It was a perfect ending to our safari trip. We had seen every animal we wanted to see and then some more. Back to the lodge to rest and have dinner. We all spent time on our patios reading or just relaxing before dinner. After dinner, another night time safari(more comfortable now). We saw a clan of hyenas in their den, hippos running or eating, lions and more. We were all exhausted from the numerous activities and bed could not come sooner. The next morning was a long ride back to Nairobi for home. While driving, kids were yelling at our jeep, so we asked Bryant what they were yelling. He said they wanted sweets from the white people. We all still had candy, so we asked Bryant to stop. The kids came over to our jeep where we all gave out candy or whatever we had. Great fun for us and a treat for them I imagine. We stopped and ate our lunch that Kichwa Tembo made to take with us. I had a bag of cashews and a gentleman asked if he could have some. I shared and then was immediately surrounded by others who wanted some cashews. So I shared. Good thing the bag was big enough to share. The first gentleman said he rarely sees cashews and asked how much for the rest. I declined to sell but hind sight, I should have just given them to him.
We arrived in Nairobi at an office where some of our luggage remained while on the safari. This is where we said our goodbyes to Bryant. He gave all of us bracelets with our names and the kenyan flag on it. We were all touched and agreed Bryant was great at his job(which he left nursing school to be a guide. Don’t tell his dad.) Tips, hugs and until we see each other again were said. We were able to take a shower after a long dirty, bouncy ride and they provided snacks and drinks while we rested and repacked. They picked us up and took us to a hotel for dinner and then to the airport for our late flight home. Layover in London, where we shopped and now we made it back to the USA. We all agreed, this was a bucket list trip and we will all see Africa again.5 ladies, who are seasoned travelers, got along great and will travel together again.